A FRANKSTON trader is urging other angry shop owners to join him in a legal class action against Frankston Council over its smoking ban – which has become permanent in the trial zone and may be greatly extended.
Glen Cooper, of Cooper’s Patisserie in Shannon Street Mall, told the Weekly that he and neighbouring coffee shop and juice bar proprietors have suffered substantial loss of trade since the council introduced its smoke-free outdoor area trial in designated areas in November.
He says the legal action will claim that traders whose businesses fall within the ban zone have been discriminated against and restricted in their trading.
“I think [legal firm] Slater & Gordon would be most interested in taking this case. If it had been a blanket ban across the shopping centre I would have copped it sweet. But customers are going to where they can smoke.”
Making a submission at last Monday week’s council meeting, Mr Cooper said traders around Shannon Street Mall had put off at least 20 staff since the bans came into effect. He had let go five staff since he bought the shop, formerly L’Opera coffee shop, in October last year.
He said if he knew the bans were coming into effect in November, he would not have proceeded with the deal.
Mr Cooper told councillors his income had dropped by $1500 a week.
“You’ve restricted our trade. You’ve allowed smoking to continue in [nearby] Wells Street,” he said.
That night the council was considering a report on the controversial six month trial to ban smoking in designated areas in the central activities district – Shannon Street Mall, Station Street Mall, the western side of Young Street between Wells and Station streets, Stiebel Place and Gallery Lane.
The report stated that the trial had seen a dramatic reduction in the levels of smoking in the zones, on-line feedback indicating 38 people were in support of the trial and 16 opposed.
Those who supported the bans wanted them expanded, ranging from a blanket ban to car parks, within 10 metres of shop entries, at the Young Street taxi rank, in Wells Street and on the foreshore.
Those against said the council should instead be dealing with illicit drug use, violence, litter on beaches and crime generally. Others said the trial was breaching human rights and discriminating against smoking which was a legal activity, and raised concerns for business trade in the non-smoking zones.
There were also concerns about businesses immediately adjacent to the restriction areas which had increased numbers of smokers outside their premises. This was highlighted in a submission by the Greater Frankston Business Chamber.
The council surveyed 505 members of the public and 168 Frankston businesses in February. More than 70 per cent of people and businesses wanted the smoking ban to continue.
During the six-month trial only one person was fined.
Last Monday week the council voted to retain the non-smoking zones on a permanent basis. The only dissenting vote came from Cr Alistair Wardell, who regards the ban as a breach of civil liberties.
Now the council is setting its eyes on banning smoking along the west side of Young Street between Wells and Playne streets and on the east side of Young Street between Beach and Playne streets (the public transport interchange) as well as Wells and Thompson streets, playgrounds, beach areas, the Hastings Road service lane outside Frankston Hospital and new kerbside trading areas, such as al fresco cafes.
Officers will consult traders, including cafe operators, in the existing and proposed new non-smoking zones.
BY MIKE MORRIS
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